Sneetches and Other Stories (by Dr. Seuss)
The story of the Sneetches is an elegant example of a children's story which makes an important point. The point is quite accessible by even the most novice reader or listener; we should treat each other with respect no matter what our differences are. With Dr. Seuss's birthday one day away I thought it would be nice to share an example of his writing in conjunction with illustrating one of the traits of good writing.
Where The Wild Things Are (by Maurice Sendak)
With Where the Wild Are, Maurice Sendak tells a very child friendly story about a child who makes believe he is in another world, and then comes back when the real world stimulus of food enters his thoughts. The story is short and has a clear beginning, middle and end, making a great example of writing which could be emulated by young writers.
"Today we are going to learn about how good writing usually tells a story or makes a point. Can anyone tell me what I might mean by makes a point? (I would love for the students to articulate this abstract concept, though I will attempt to help them with scaffolding by making connections to what they already know. I will be looking for something along the lines of a point being what the author wants to say about something through his story.) When authors tell a story or make a point with their writing, it makes it interesting for the reader to read. The reader is taken on a journey that has a clear beginning or end, and is often taught a lesson through the use of the story (makes a point). Let me show you what I mean."
II. Teacher Modeling - Share Mentor Texts
"Who here knows who Theodore Giselle is? Does anyone know who Dr. Seuss is? Did you know that Dr. Seuss's real name was Theodore Giselle? Well it was, and tomorrow was an important day for Dr. Seuss. Can anyone tell me why? That's right, tomorrow is Dr. Seuss's birthday. So I thought I would choose one of my favorite stories written by Dr. Seuss. What makes this one of my favorite stories is that is makes a very important point. (If given the opportunity, I would like to read the text to the students and have them tell me what the point is. In this context I'm not sure I will be given the opportunity, so the remainder of this script assumes no opportunity to share the text. The same goes for Sendak's story.) The story is called The Sneetches and it makes a point, that we should treat each other with respect no matter what our differences are."
"How many of you know the story Where the Wild things Are? In this story by Maurice Sendak, he is able to tell a story which takes us on an adventure as the main character Max enters into a world of make believe. The whole story stays centered around Max, and his adventure, making it a perfect example of what we mean by a story."
III. Teacher Modeling - Think Aloud and Demonstration
"Today we are going to practice writing stories. A story usually has three important things. A beginning, middle, and end. At the beginning of a story we usually introduce the main character or characters. In the middle of the story, the characters usually get involved in something rather interesting, and usually in the end, things go back to normal but a little different. Let's try it (begin think out loud). Now who or what should I write about (accept student input and write main characters in an introductory state or activity)? Excellent, now we have our beginning. Now what should we have them do? (Again, I will accept input and have the students help me create the story. Ideally the story would also make a point, but at the very least I want to craft a basic story with the students help. This process should culminate with a completed story.) Does this look like a story to you? Why? (I want the students to point out that it sticks to a certain topic or characters and that it has a beginning middle and end.) Does this story make a point (Hopefully it does, either way; I want to make it clear that not all stories make a point, it is just another way good writers write. We will discuss further.)?
IV. Guided/Independent Practice
"So you see how we wrote that story? Now it's your turn to give a story a try on your own! Think to yourself for a minute about what or who you are going to write about. (Allow the students a minute to think.) Turn to the person next to you and tell them what the first pages of your book will sound like. (after sharing) Remember to have a clear beginning, middle and end, and if you can try and make a point. Now take your ideas and go to your writer's journal to begin to write them down. Some of you might want to pre-write them in a brainstorm list (illustrate on white board), and others will start writing your stories right away. When you're finished, we'll share our stories with each other in the writer's circle."
V. Formative Assessment
As students begin to share their stories in the writer's circle, I will check to see if they are coherent stories which focus on main characters, have a clear beginning, middle and end, and possibly make a point. Their work will be assessed on how well they meet these goals.